Our Writing Competition deadline is May 31. Among the honours winners will receive: your short fiction, memoir or poem will be included in the Hill Spirits Anthology, being published this October.
If you’re struggling to find a topic, this piece by Mike Croucher is a must-read.
One Saturday morning several years ago, when we lived near Toronto, my phone rang. It was early. No problem for me, I’m an early riser. Not my wife, she stays up late and sleeps in accordingly. I picked up on the first ring.
It was Gary, a buddy from my writers group. “ Let’s meet for coffee. I need to pick your brain.”
We met at our usual spot in Bloor West Village. Gary was at a table when I arrived, his notebook open, with a pen lying on top. I grabbed a coffee and muffin and sat across from him. We knew each other well, no need for small talk. I raised my eyebrows expectantly.
“I can’t come up with anything for that bloody Anthology,” he said. “Never done shorts. Not really my bag. I’m busy chipping away at my novel. I need to know where the hell they come from.”
“ Short stories… Ideas for the damned things. Less than fifteen hundred words isn’t my kind of project. I promised to submit something and I don’t want to make an ass of myself. I can’t even flesh out an idea. Help me out here. Where do you get your ideas?”
“There are a few prompts I use. Here’s one. Pick an object.”
“Just pick an object, anything.’
“Quit shitting me.” His eyes tightened.
“Pick one, It really helps.”
He held up his hands. A WTF gesture.
I held up a menu. “ This,” I said. “let’s start with this.”
“Bullshit. I suppose you could write a story about a damned menu.”
“I could… I did.”
“Well, you’re itching to tell me how that happened. So go ahead.”
“When I was a member of the T-Dot group, we took turns coming up with writing assignments. The strangest one came from a lady named Frenchy. She pulled a menu out of a shopping bag and held it up. ‘Write about a menu,’ she said. Really, that was the assignment. Dumbest thing I’d ever heard.”
“No kidding. But you came up with something, right?”
I nodded. “It actually came together well.”
“OK, give me the drill,” said Gary.
“Really think about the object. In that case, a menu. Ask yourself some questions:
- Where do you find menus?
- I picked a diner. Setting decided.
- Who gets involved with menus?
- Customers and servers. I picked a retired single cop and a saucy waitress who took a shine to the ex-cop. Characters picked.
“I threw in a menu, a polaroid photograph, some sticky notes, a picnic basket, and an actual polaroid camera. The plot came together quickly.
“The second scene took place in a city park. I used my imagination, threw in a twist, and had my story idea.”
“What about the next story?” Gary asked.
“It doesn’t always come together that quickly, Gary. But when I need more ideas, I find more prompts. Life is full of them.”